Mr. Chairman, I am glad to return to the subject of agriculture. At the outset I should like to say that I hope the hon. member will continue to be a tourist in Okanagan Boundary. When he finished speaking on the subject I wish to discuss I was not
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clear about his position on the matter. I think he has perhaps been brainwashed by other government members.
I attended a banquet sponsored by the Oliver Chamber of Commerce not long ago when the general manager of the British Columbia Tree Fruits Limited gave a most interesting address on the problems created by the unfair importation of Australian canned goods into Canada. It is interesting to note that although I had been involved in this problem for quite some time I did not take an official stand until the government had had an opportunity to examine the brief which was presented last October. Finally, however, I could not stand aside any longer and I asked for a copy of the brief which had been delivered. Copies were sent to the hon. member for Kootenay West, the hon. member for Kamloops, I believe the hon. member for Kootenay East or someone in his party in that constituency and also to the hon. member for Okanagan-Revelstoke. They all had an opportunity to examine it before I did.
I should like to tell the Minister of Agriculture, the Minister of Finance who is not here, and the Minister of Trade and Commerce that Canadian processors of fruits and vegetables in western Canada do not mind fair competition. No Canadian objects to this no matter in what industry he is engaged. But we cannot continue to compete on the export market unless those countries which export to Canada practise fair trade and fair play. I wish to state immediately that the Australians are not doing this. The Minister of Agriculture and the other ministers must be aware of this because obviously the matter must have been discussed in cabinet. We are being treated unfairly. When I say this I am speaking not only on behalf of the processors in western Canada but also the processors across Canada.
Last October the Canadian fruit processors in conjunction with the Canadian Horticultural Council presented a brief to the federal government. When they came away they said they had been received very well but now they say they would like to hear further about the matter. No word has been received since that time. I venture to say that no government member would have dared to get up on his feet and say anything about this matter had he not been a member from a Kootenay riding.
Much has been made of the fact that the Australians are laying down canned peaches in Toronto at prices far below our price or the United States price. The Australian price
is $7.62 a case. The best price we can offer is $8.63 and the best price the United States processors can offer is $8.31. The Australians have a subsidy which enables their exporters to compete unfairly in this part of the world and elsewhere. There is an excise tax on sales in Australia which is reflected in the price paid by Australian consumers. This excise tax is applied in order to subsidize the canned goods which are exported into our market. A special income tax allowance of 200 per cent is allowed for export promotional schemes but not for promotion of sales within Australia. I am pretty sure of my figures because I obtained them from the fruit industry and they can be checked. After everything is considered, such as the rebate on tin plate and the rebate on sugar, the Australian processors have an advantage of $2 a case and in some instances more than that.
I should like to know whether the government has looked at the brief which was presented or whether it has been tossed in the ash can. Why has an interim report not been made to the industry? I might also ask whether the Australian government has been approached and whether this unfair practice has been pointed out to it.
In a few moments I intend to refer to the recommendations contained in the brief presented by the fruit industry. Before doing so, however, I should like to correct the hon. member for Kootenay East because I wish to be helpful to him. The processing business in Canada and the Okanagan area did not come about in order to take care of overproduction. It is an essential part of the soft fruit industry. To appreciate this fact one must understand how this industry was developed. We produce soft fruits in the Okanagan and we have access to processors. They are not in the business to sell these products to the Canadian people at an excessive profit. Over the years these processors have had to import soft fruits from other countries of the world in order to fill the cans they must put on the grocers' shelves. We produce a pretty good brand.
[DOT] (3:30 p.m.)
I am sure the minister knows how necessary this processing industry is. It was not developed by an outside company. Every dollar put into the industry was put in as a result of contributions made in one way or another by the growers. Many millions of dollars have been invested in plants and equipment in the Okanagan valley. These processing plants are necessary to the whole fruit
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industry in Canada. If one part of the industry is lost, the whole industry will be jeopardized. The processing industry must operate on a 12 month basis. If it operates for any less than 12 months it will operate at a loss.
In view of present attitudes I cannot help but wonder whether the government and the minister have taken account of the recommendations of the industry. Seven recommendations were proposed in the brief presented by the industry and I should like to refer to them. The first recommendation is:
Immediately opening negotiations with the Australian government to renegotiate the 1960 Australian Trade Agreement Act to rescind the concessions accorded tender fruit imports.
Has the government taken any action in this regard? The second recommendation is: Reviewing the Australian tax incentives applicable to their tender fruit industry. If considered a direct subsidy, appropriate action should be taken to reinstate our Canadian anti-dumping legislation with Australia. If not a direct subsidy, Canadian legislation should be implemented to remove inequities.
The minister knows full well that there is a saving clause in that agreement to the effect that if damage is being done steps can be taken. Why has the government not done something in this regard? Why has the government not kept in touch with the fruit growers and fruit processors in Canada? Will the minister tell me what steps have been taken, and if any steps have been taken why has the department not informed the industry? Recommendation No. 3 is:
Establishing tariffs equal to those enjoyed by Canadian competitors.
I am not in favour of an increase in tariffs. As I said earlier, no Canadian industry minds fair competition but unfair competition is something else. Whether the industry involved is small or otherwise the Canadian government should look into the matter. If we do not want the fruit industry to continue we should say so, but we should waffle no longer in this regard. Recommendation No. 4 is: Establishing a quota system as a temporary measure.
One might as well ask for the moon because the government manifested its attitude when it removed the quota system on turkeys and practically ruined the market for Canadian producers. As the hon. member for Kent (Ont.) suggested, the government is not in step with agricultural requirements in Canada. One does not fix a policy and then let it remain forever and ever. One has to keep up to date, and if you do not keep up to date
in this competitive world you might as well cease to exist. Let us not lose our home markets. Recommendation No. 5 is:
If it is not possible to remove the present inequities, the Canadian government was asked to establish a subsidy program similar to that offered sugar beet, poultry, dairy and other industries.
I am not in favour of this recommendation. We have a strong fruit industry in British Columbia and Ontario, and these are the areas vitally affected. I am not in favour of paying a subsidy because this is not necessary if the unfair competition is removed. Recommendation No. 6 is:
In co-operation with the industry, establishing a promotional program for the domestic and international markets.
This is much along the Australian idea. I am sure the minister has looked into this aspect and I would be interested to hear his comments. Recommendation No. 7 is:
In co-operation with the growers and processors, conducting an economic survey of the tender fruit growing and processing industy, with the objective of determining ways of making the industry more competitive.
This industry is competitive. I should like to know the circumstances surrounding the bellying up recently of a cannery which had been in existence for many years. I should like to know whether this is company policy and what effect it has had on that part of Ontario. We cannot do anything about killing competition but has the minister looked into the circumstances? What are the freight rates on fruit for Canadian producers compared with the freight rates for Australian producers who ship fruit in all-inclusive shipments from Australia to Toronto?
The member for Kootenay East suggests there may be difficulties facing this industry but that we should not take a stand. Perhaps this is the government's view but I was surprised when he said that in the house. It is a very irrational statement to make in respect of any Canadian industry.
The brief to which I have referred came to the attention of the minister and the department some time ago. I should like to know whether any representations were made before that time. I am sure officials of the Department of Agriculture have known for well over two years about the Australian fruit industry's influence in this country. One has only to look at what has happened since 1957 when Canada produced 103 million pounds of canned fruit goods and imported 72 million pounds. Only ten years later, in 1966, this
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picture had been reversed. Canadian production dropped from 103 million pounds to 88 million pounds while imports increased from 72 million pounds to 132 million pounds. While ours is a growing economy and Canadians need more food, there should be some protection provided Canadian industry.
[DOT] (3:40 p.m.)
I think I have made my case, and I am glad to see that the hon. member for Kootenay West is in his seat as he has always been a champion on behalf of the fruit industry. I am glad that this agricultural debate has started off with everybody who has spoken demanding action. If I alone had made these requests of the minister I think he would have said to me that nobody else was bellyaching, but when the demand for action is so widespread I know the minister will stir himself a little and will get something done. He will probably start talking again to the Minister of Finance, if he has not done so already, and to the Minister of Trade and Commerce about these problems.
I say to the minister in all seriousness that if he knocks out the processors in my area he will knock out the fruit industry, probably including the apple industry, and I would point out that we produce apple juice as well. If the minister knocks out the processors in Canada the whole of the soft fruit industry and possibly the whole of the fruit industry will suffer irreparable loss in dollars and cents and perhaps the extermination of the whole fruit industry. The situation is as bad as that.
Even though the government knows about this situation, small beginnings and lack of control could lead to the extermination of this industry. People in the industry may find that in the end they will get nothing out of it. I ask the minister not to let the people engaged in the fruit industry feel that because it is a smaller industry than those concerned with huge coal sales to Japan, exports to the United States or wheat sales to places around the world, they are forgotten by the government. The minister should remember that the fruit industry is a very vital and important part of the economy of Canada and must be maintained.
I now wish to speak briefly about the people who presented a brief to the government. The minister knows what the Canadian Fruit Processors Association is; he knows what the Canadian Horticultural Council is. Every growers' association, every shipper, every wholesaler and everybody connected with the
fruit and vegetable industry in Canada is behind the brief of the Canadian Horticultural Council. I should now like to refer to an illustrious former holder of the portfolio of minister of agriculture, one of the same political ilk as this minister. I refer to Hon. James Gardiner, or Jimmy Gardiner. Hon. members should refer to Hansard of his day to see what he thought about the Canadian Horticultural Council.
That organization does not cry wolf with regard to matters that are not important. Its members examine every request put forward to the government and if it does not have merit and is not completely worth-while it does not bear the hallmark of the Canadian Horticultural Council. The minister knows that the council met here last week. He knows that its deliberations are for the benefit of all growers throughout Canada. The council aims at helping the whole of the industry from the producer down to the consumer. I shall not deal with the position taken by the fruit processors because it might be felt there was bias, but obviously they had to present a brief.
There are many other things with which I could have dealt today. I think this subject has been very fully covered but a short recapitulation of the situation would not hurt. Australian canned peaches, pears, fruit cocktail, etc., are being sold in Canada at prices with which we cannot compete. We cannot produce these fruits at the price for which the Australian product sells here. The reason the Australians can do this is that they are receiving a direct form of subsidy from their government. The minister has heard what I have said about rebates and all the other factors involved in this question. In other words, the Australian government helps the canned goods industry of that country. Australian canned fruits are sold at a lower price on the shelves of stores in Toronto than are Canadian products. They are sold at a lower price despite the freight rates and everything else involved in their shipment to this country. The price of the Australian product beats ours by $1.01 a case.
I say this is unfair competition. I hope that the Minister of Agriculture who is here, the Minister of Finance who is away, and the Minister of Trade and Commerce who is in a state of transition, will get together, forget the leadership race for a short while and take strong and immediate action to solve this problem. I hope they will get in touch with the Canadian Horticultural Council and the
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Canadian Food Processors Association and say: Gentlemen, these are the steps we have taken; these are the steps we propose to take; this is an interim report only but we will keep in touch with you. The fruit industry cannot afford to wait any longer for government action to solve its problems.
Topic: DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE